El Salvador is among the smallest and most densely populated countries on the continent and is burdened with great social inequality, corruption, violence and crime. With few natural resources and little industrial production, the country’s economy is tightly bound up with the USA and is extremely dependent on money transfers, service industries and trade.
Following the civil war in the 1980s and the 1992 peace agreement, the former resistance movement, FMLN (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional) has gradually built up broad political experience in parliament and in local authorities. In 2009, they won the national elections with a centre-left coalition. After 17 years of conservative and new liberal politics, left-wing supporters and social organisations had great expectations. While the biggest changes were put on hold, increased investment in social services, health and education were of great benefit to rural communities in particular.
The FMLN government was fiercely opposed by the right wing and commercial media, which are governed by a small elite. After two consecutive presidencies, FMLN lost the election in 2019. FMLN’s former mayor of San Salvador, Nayib Bukele, was elected president in collaboration with the country’s conservative parties. Under President Bukele, the country’s political course has turned towards the centre-right and the relationship with the USA has been strengthened, while the president himself has shown growing signs of authoritarianism.
Norwegian People’s Aid has been supporting popular organisations in El Salvador since the beginning of the 1980s, including a close relationship with the former resistance movement, FMLN. During the 1990s, our work focussed on reconstruction following the civil war, integration of former guerrillas and refugees, and democratic development within the country. We are currently working to strengthen our partners’ organisational development, participation in decision-making processes and political advocacy at both local and national levels. In particular, Norwegian People’s Aid supports its partners’ work with political education, leadership development, equality, communication, and alliances and cooperation. Our partners are engaged in the struggle to protect the environment and natural resources, working against the possible privatisation of water resources, and for the continuation of the ban on mining activities. They are also active in the fight for land rights for smallholders and cooperatives, and for women’s rights, health and security. Securing relevant information and good channels of communication for social organisations, including local radio stations, is another prioritised area.